Final Cut Pro Lessons
Applying a Focus Mask

So sometimes you are handed video that looks, well you wonder what the videographer was of an interviewee in front of a window with metal blinds for instance, and you, the uber editor needs to fix it. This is my secret weapon for making average (or bad) video looking good...

This is the video...strong backlight, really busy, a bit blueish, at least they lit the person with enough light to cut the outdoor backlight...gee thanks! I am going to reduce the background clutter, fix the color correction and put the focal emphasis on the face all with a few filters!


First select the video (ignore my marker point) so you can copy just the video. You select by clicking on the video track.


Then use command key-L on the keyboard to de-link the video from the audio. Then copy and paste the video in front of the original clip.

What we will be doing is to color correct and blur the original clip. Then we will mask out the next clip and place it over the first clip. I am keeping the clips next to each other to help make this more understanding, but you can do this stacked if you want.
Let's apply our color correction filter first. Begin by selecting the original clip by double clicking on it. Make sure your playhead is over the clip that you will massaging so you will see the results in the Canvas window.

We are now going to go to the Viewer panel, click on the Effects tab and roll down the Video Filters tab.

Go down to the Color Corrector 3-way and drag that on top of the clip (or into the viewer window on top of your video clip).

Select the Color Corrector 3-way tab in the Viewer panel.

We are first going to color correct to knock out the blue. Select the eyedropper tool by the color wheel. Then you will move the eyedropper over a white area in the video clip.

I selected the blind ribbon, knowing that was! what a difference it makes!

This is the color corrected image, now she looks warmer and the background is less blue.

Now, after making this image look good, I am going to make it look bad!...I want to make the background darker and out of focus. To start I go back to the Color Corrector 3-way tab and lower the whites, mids, blacks and saturation.

The image now looks like this.

I need to back to my Effects tab, to Video Filters, to Blur and select Gaussian Blur and drag that down over my clip (or into the Filters tab in the viewer).

Note that in the Filters tab in the Viewer, the Gaussian Blur is added below the Color Corrector. I then move my slider for the Radius between 5 to 8. I am going to 8.

Wow! Yes, this is pretty blurry. This will be my background and now I need to move to my overlay mask.

Select the next clip (the one that you copied earlier.

Go to the Effects tab, down to Mask Shape and drag it on to the clip (again, I like to have my playhead on top of the clip so I can watch my changes in the Canvas window).

Go over to the Viewer window and select the Filters tab. By changing the Horizontal Scale and the Vertical Scale and adjusting the Center you can frame the face. To adjust the center you have to click on the "+" sign the move the center. If you need to move it again, you will need to do the same thing.

Move the controls to frame the face appropriately. This is a mask, so all of the black areas are transparent.


To soften the edges of the mask, you should apply a Mask Feather which is in the Effects tab in the Matte folder. Drag it on top of your clip.

Go back to your Filters tab in the viewer. Go to your Mask Feather controls and move it to around 50.

Now you have nice, soft edges around your mask.

Drag the second clip on top of the first clip and align them so they line up perfectly.

Wow! We fixed the background right up. It is perhaps to "effecty" here, I might go back and lower the blur radius, but you get the idea for the effect in this image. There is one more thing left to do...

Drag a color correction filter over the top image and color correct as you did previously. Then adjust the image to make the face look a little more vibrant. You will want to use scopes, but I generally find that I knock off some black level, add a touch of white and boost the saturation a bit.

This is the completed image.

This is the before image. You can see that we stylized to make the focus go to the face and away from the distracting background.

If the subject does not move around a lot, you can leave all settings as this. If however, the subject does move then you will have to keyframe the center point of the mask to follow the subject.